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A cactus-inspired building in Arizona

I was on a panel last month with Jamie Miller, director of biomimicry at B+H Architects, and he remined me just how much I am fascinated by the use of biomimicry in architecture and engineering. Nature is pretty impressive and I think there’s a lot that we can learn from her.

Here is a recently completed example of what I’m talking about.

The project is the new Pinal County Attorney’s Office in Florence, Arizona (designed by DLR Group). What the team did here was try and emulate the skin of the saguaro cactus. That ultimately translated into vertical self-shading fins on the envelope of the building.

Here’s what that looks like (via DLR Group):

Here is some evidence suggesting that the fins are truly helping performance (via Urbanland):

And here is the explanation for why it works and why nature does this (also via Urbanland):

Sit in front of a saguaro cactus for an hour and you will see the way it protects itself and thrives in the intense desert heat. Its vertical fins provide continuous self-shading and redistribution of heat. This ability to self-shade breaks sunlight up into smaller areas that shift continually, preventing any one area of the cactus skin from overheating. This adaptation not only makes the saguaro viable, but also gives it a beautiful and distinct character. Creating a 3-D computer-generated model of a saguaro cactus and using a daylighting simulation model confirmed that no part of the plant received more than 15 to 20 minutes of direct sun at any one time, avoiding the possibility of sunburn.

How cool.

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